Confusion over Nipah death toll after articles in international journals

Confusion over Nipah death toll after articles in international journals
Spread of the virus to humans may occur after close contact with other Nipah-infected people or infected bats.
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Kozhikode: Articles published in two different international journals in a span of one month have created confusion regarding the number of deaths in Kozhikode due to Nipah virus. While the Kerala government insisted that only 18 cases were confirmed, out of that 16 died and two recovered, the journals point out that there were 23 cases and 21 people died.

Adding to the confusion is that the journals are banking on the same doctors and officials, based on whose reports the state government released the final report regarding deaths. It includes additional chief secretary (health) Rajeev Sadanandan, nodal officer Dr R Chandini and Dr Arun Kumar, head and nodal officer (Influenza lab) at Manipal Centre for Virus Research.

Health minister K K Shylaja, however, did not dismiss the article fully, while confirming that Nipah virus was confirmed in only 18 cases and said that the rest would be suspected cases. She also blamed the media for wrongly interpreting the articles in the journals.

“It is not a surprising fact. Lab tests proved only 18 cases. We sent more than 300 samples for test. Some cases were of H1H1 (Influenza A), while some were normal fever. We can confirm only those cases tested and proven at the lab, the rest of the cases are suspected. So, we can not say authoritatively if those cases are Nipah or not. At that time, even the families of the suspected patients were quarantined. The officials did not commit any mistake, we all depended on the same report for revealing the death tolls. There are no misinterpretation from the doctors, misinterpretation is being done by the journalists,” the minister said.

However, criticism arose from various corners that in the light of the articles, the government should also include the other cases as Nipah deaths and provide the families of the deceased, the same assistance that was given to the families of the Nipah victims. They claim that nurse Lini was not the only medical staff who died while attending to the Nipah patients, but there was also a radiology assistant. Lini's husband was provided with a government job.

The findings were in two reports published by the British Medical Journal and the Journal of Infectious Disease on October 26 and November 9.

A Union Health Ministry advisory had said that the virus, which commonly affects animals such as bats, pigs, dogs, and horses, can spread to humans, causing serious illness. Spread of the virus to humans may occur after close contact with other Nipah-infected people, infected bats, or infected pigs.

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